Castles of Latvia: Photos of Gauja National Park

Castles have always intrigued me, especially those in ruins. The more hidden and neglected the ruins, the better for my imagination to run wild. I blame it on my childhood bookworm days when running away to live in an art museum or an abandoned boxcar seemed entirely plausible. Every brick of a castle, no matter how small, holds a story to be told and transports me back to my girlhood enthusiasm for grand adventure.

I abandoned the city of Riga for a day to explore the Gauja River Valley, so critical to medieval trade and power, it’s like the Grand Central Station of castles. Over the course of one afternoon, I explored two 19th century manor houses grandiously called “castles” by their barons and three real rough and tumble castles.

The largest castle, Turaida, is an impressive red brick hulk dominating the Gauja River, although much of it is actually a 20th century reconstruction on top of the 13th century castle ruins. At times, the reconstructed sections are too neat, too angular, lacking the softened, crumbling edges of time’s anvil. Sigulda Castle impressed me with its delicate balance between today and yesterday – nave left open to the sky, but fresh, bright wood ramparts allowing access to tower doorways and corridors once orphaned high above the ground.

It was Krimulda Castle, a lonely 13th century sentinel buried in the cool of the woods, overgrown with brush and berries and slumbering to the hum of bees, that won my heart. Not a soul around as I sat on the remains of a wall, the hollow eyes of the castle begging for company.

To view my photo slide show, click on the link below.

Gauja National Park, Latvia

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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